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Concept of Power in Political Science

Power is the crux of politics, local, national, and international. Since the beginning of human power has been occupying the central position in human relations. To comprehend international politics and relations , studying the concept of power in political science is a must. The relation between the state and power is very close. In the words of Hartman, power lurks in the background of all relations between sovereign states. In this way, all inter-state relations are ultimately relations of power politics.

Politics is nothing other than the pursuit and exercise of power, and that political relations are mainly power relations. The study of international relations reveals that power has been the most crucial means for achieving national interests. That is why every nation wants to attain, maintain, and utilize power. It is both an end as well as means of international politics. The position of a state in the comity of nations is determined not by its civilization or culture or literary contribution but by its power.

Every state possesses power though in different amounts and kind. Thus, one cannot ignore power while studying international relations. Power, influence, authority , and capability are related terms and often used interchangeably and loosely.

Such a user creates conceptual confusion. An attempt has been made to remove this confusion by defining each term separately in the following Paragraph. In ancient India, the master of statecraft , Kautilya , wrote about power in the fourth century B. Thus, power, in the words of Morgenthau, may comprise anything that establishes and maintains control of man over man and it covers all social relationships which serve that end, from physical violence to the most subtle psychological ties by which one mind controls another.

Power is viewed both as a set of attributes of a given actor and a relationship between two actors. The simple way to understand the concept of power is to see it as a relationship of independent entities. While defining power, Schleicher also makes a distinction between power and influence. Power is the ability to make others do what they otherwise would not do by rewarding or promising to reward or by depriving or threatening to deprive them of something they value.

In his own words, the Power relationship is marked clearly by the occurrence of threats; the influence relationship is manifested without threatened sanctions. To Dahl, power is the ability to shift the probability of outcomes. According to him, A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do. Hartmann observes that power ma infests itself along the line of influence beginning with latent or unintended use of power that is to say, persuasion through conscious but regulated power that is to say, pressure and reaching up to its final gradation that is to say, use of farce.

Couloumbis and Wolfe define power as an umbrella concept that denotes anything that establishes and maintains the control of Actor A over Actor B. Power, in turn, can be seen as having three important ingredients. The first ingredient is force, which can be defined as the explicit threat or military, economic, and other instruments of coercion by Actor A against Actor B in pursuit of A political objectives.

The second ingredient is influence, which we define as the use of instruments of persuasion short of force by Actor A to maintain or alter the behavior of Actor B in a fashion suitable to the preferences of Actor A. The third ingredient of power is authority, which we will define as Actor B voluntary compliance with directives prescriptions, orders issued by Actor A, nurtured by B perceptions regarding A-a such as respect, solidarity, affection, affinity, leadership, knowledge, expertise.

They thus clarify the meaning not only of power but also of influence, force, and authority. They also depict the umbrella concept of power as follows:. According to them, the capability is always the ability to do something, to act purposefully in an actual situation. Power also implies this, and popularly power often becomes a status to which states aspire and which a few achieve. Scholars sometimes think of a powerful state in the abstract, without considering how much they can actually do in an immediate action situation.

Capability preserves the necessary nexus with policy and action that careless use of power often overlooks. For these reasons, they use the former term to refer to the overall action competence of states.

On the other hand, Couloumbis and Wolfe prefer to interpret capability as the tangible and intangible attributes of nation-states that permit them to exercise various degrees of power in their contacts with other actors. Technically the term power is distinct from the term capability.

Most scholars prefer to use the term power. Respecting this preference, we will adhere to the term power in subsequent paragraphs. The power possessed by a nation-state is known as a national power. In the words of Padelford and Lincoln, National power is the total of the strength and capabilities of a state harnessed and applied to the advancement of its national interests and attaining its national objectives.

In a formal sense, agrarian national power has been defined as the strength or capacity a sovereign state can use to achieve its national interests. This power alone enables a state to defend its interests in the long run and produce desired results.

It is an indicator of the ability to influence opinion, human behavior, and the course of events outside its own frontiers. According to Anam Jaitly, national power can influence people domestically and other nations externally toward certain desired national preferences and induce a favorable response from these sectors for accomplishing these preferences.

It has an instrumental value for understanding higher national objectives in a competitive world. He defined it as the capacity of nations to pursue different stakes territorial, political, economic, social, cultural, and those relating to prestige and goodwill. National power taken in this sense is constituted by several elements, constituents, or factors.

Ebenstein also defines national power in terms of its attributes and elements. According to him, National power is more than the total population, raw material, and quantitative factors. These elements and attributes of national power will be discussed in detail in the next. Unless a nation can do this, she may be large, she may be wealthy, she may even be great, but she is not powerful.

The military strength of a state is known as physical power. Whenever this subordination is disturbed, military leadership or commander snatch political power.

It is exactly how various coup detaches occur in the world, and political power changes hands. Separation of military power among different wings has provided some safeguard to political authority from the Usurpation of power by military leadership. It is also the cause of not providing any unified command of the three wings in India.

But at the same time, concrete steps must be taken to make the military subordinate to political authority. The military should not be allowed to indulge in political affairs and activities. It is a power over public opinion. It consists of symbolic devices that are utilized to appeal to the emotions of men. This power is identical to that of propaganda.

It is an endeavor to regulate the thoughts and actions of others through propaganda. Propaganda is motivated and could be for good or evil. Power over opinion is essential for boosting the morale of the people at home, carrying on the psychological warfare abroad, and acquiring moral leadership everywhere. Psychological power is used very tactfully. In India, the Republic Day Parade of the locally made tanks and weapons is meant to impress upon the other nations its growing military power.

Psychological power is usually employed to weaken the opponent countries by spreading disloyalty among their people and instigating t2hem against their governments. Both of them are important methods of power.

Nepal and Bhutan are dependent upon India for their trade. The developed countries follow what has been propagated as economic aid policy towards the developing countries. This aid policy has created a large stockpile of credit for developed Western countries among the developing countries but is proving to be of dubious political advantage. The question arises how can Nation A influence Nation B? How can it exercise power? There are four means and methods by which one nation can influence or control others as per its own desire.

These are:. It is the most common and widely used way of exercising power. In this method, what Nation A does is to influence Nation B through arguments or superior logic or redefine the whole situation so that Nation B changes its mind about what it ought to do. Most of the delegates of international organizations employ this method and persuade. Small nations largely rely on this less expensive method because they lack the power and means to coerce.

Rewards for compliance may include psychological manipulation, material support, economic aid, military assistance, and political support.

A diplomat may alter his stand to win the appreciation of his fellow diplomats from other nations. The rewards can be material in the shape of territory, military aid, weapons, troops, and training facilities. The rewards may be economical in the form of aid, loans, grants, capital supply, technical assistance, etc.

Reward and punishment have a close relationship. The most effective punishment is to with old reward. Punishment may also include hostile activities like unfriendly propaganda, diplomatic opposition, and aid to the enemy of the state concerned. It, however, should be threatened in advance and not actually carried out. The most effective punishment is rarely meted out because the very threat succeeds in preventing the action which the punishes disapproves of.

As a last resort, if it is to be carried out, it should be given in such a way that it can be withdrawn at once when the offending party changes and subscribes to the way shown by the punishing Party.

Punishment is Usually threatened as a preventive measure, but it becomes the use of force when it is actually carried out. Thus, punishment and force are not strictly separated from each other through some distinction from the viewpoint of prevention and actuality. The intensity of hostility between these two is made for analysis.

The most extreme form of the use of force is war. Force is always used as the last resort when the above three methods prove futile. It can be repeated for the sake of clarification that the first two methods, persuasion and reward constitute influence during the last two, punishment and force, form power.

14.1 Power and Authority

Politics refers to the distribution and exercise of power within a society, and polity refers to the political institution through which power is distributed and exercised. In any society, decisions must be made regarding the allocation of resources and other matters. Except perhaps in the simplest societies, specific people and often specific organizations make these decisions. Depending on the society, they sometimes make these decisions solely to benefit themselves and other times make these decisions to benefit the society as a whole. Regardless of who benefits, a central point is this: some individuals and groups have more power than others. Because power is so essential to an understanding of politics, we begin our discussion of politics with a discussion of power.


Power and authority are perhaps the most vital aspects of all organisations in Some political scientists want to mean that there is a special type of power which​.


Authority, Coercion, and Power in International Relations

Don't have an account? Despite its central role in theories of international politics, scholars have an impoverished conception of power. Focusing almost exclusively on material capabilities and coercion, scholars ignore and even actively deny the role of political authority in relations between states.

4 Response
  1. Xarles B.

    In the fields of sociology and political science , authority is the legitimate power that a person or a group of persons consensually possess and practice over other people.

  2. Ricky F.

    Department oj Political Science, Yale University. What is concept of power is as ancient and ubiquitous such as power and influence, particularly in po-.

  3. Romain B.

    Political sociology studies the relation between state and society, authority and power, and the methods used to formulate social policy.

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